The Stone Angel, or Forgetting Too Much [from The Glass House of Forgetting]

“Hello. Hello. I don’t know where I am! Hello. I don’t know you!” the elderly woman kept repeating, the woman whose elbow Ziri, the lighthouse keeper, cupped with his hand.

“Don’t touch me! I don’t know who you are! You’re hurting me! Stop! Let me go! I want to go back to Brooklyn!”

Ziri’s eyes were the color of amber molasses and agitated as he spoke, Sarah thought.

“I’m sorry to wake you,” he apologized,” but someone left her here. Just now. I saw the boat pull up to the shore.”

Sarah wasn’t fully awake and tried to focus—to frame the older woman who had a small suitcase in one hand and a rusted flashlight in the other. Her waterlogged slippers swished as she shuffled her stiff legs that did not seem to bend.

“It was an expensive sailboat,” Ziri added.

The woman was still in a panic. “The soldiers will be here. We need to hurry! Do you have any food? I don’t have any money. Hurry! Have you seen Melissa? I lost the baby. I’ve been up all night looking for her. Why are you so calm? The soldiers took her. Help me find her!”

“It’s okay,” Sarah said to the woman while removing a folded piece of paper that was pinned to her ocean-sprayed blouse.

“What are you doing?” the woman shrieked. “Don’t hurt me!”

A stack of hundred-dollar bills fluttered to the ground. Sarah read the note aloud to convince herself that she was, in fact, awake:

We have heard of your House of Forgetting and wonder if you could reverse the process for our mother, Sonya, so that she can remember all or some of what she has forgotten. This plea is our last hope. She does not recognize us, and her hostility has become more than we can bear. Thank you for what we know will be kindness. Yours truly, Melissa and Michael.

Sonya appeared to be in her mid to late sixties, but for the not-quite elderly woman, Alzheimer’s or dementia had settled in to burrow. Sarah knew she and Ethan had to take her in, believing her to be an ironic lucky charm—a reminder of the danger of forgetting too much.

Ziri explained later to Sarah and Ethan how from the lighthouse tower, he had caught sight of a figure and its silhouette returning to the sea’s vanishing point alone, paddling out from the shore with the sailboat’s motor turned off before leaving a rough wake under a splinter of moon.

 

The Fletchers and their guests came to think of Sonya as the Stone Angel of the Glass House. She listened to the guests’ stories with acute concentration and without judgment, interjecting an occasional “ah” or “is that so?” Their voices and words may have dislodged an echo or forgotten detail from her own life. Or perhaps she experienced something more abstract and fleetingly on a different plane. But there was no way of knowing.

While listening to some of the guests, Sonya tried to record notes in the hardcover orange book she carried with her, but by the time her pen touched paper, she could not remember the words—if she remembered the location of her pen. She often turned sharply to an invisible third party that Sarah thought she referred to (mumbling under her breath) as Death—to assure him, “I’m busy right now!”

Sonya was the perfect witness, a reminder that not everything is in one’s hands. Though she could not carry on a conversation per se, she was a charming presence when happy, especially when in close proximity to the sea or sitting with someone whose company she enjoyed. Other times, her dementia turned violent, her arms flailing, hitting anyone within reach. Like the first night Sarah walked her, with her three-pronged cane, into the dining room for dinner. Because of the cane, Sarah had been thinking of the riddle of the Sphinx—what walks first on four legs, then two, and then three? The riddle that ancient king Oedipus solved with his answer “man,” as he progresses from crawling baby to upright adult to a decrepit old man walking with a stick—when Sonya lashed out and swung her arms at Sarah. “What are you doing to me? Don’t touch me! I don’t know who you are!”

The few seated downplayed the outburst out of respect for Sonya and Sarah, and partly out of discomfort in seeing what could lie ahead for any one them. Why gaze directly into the crystal ball if one were powerless to change the circle of events? Sarah saw several guests watch from their peripheral vision, perhaps to learn how to prepare for anyone’s possible demise.

Sarah managed to settle Sonya into a chair and appease her by handing her the menu. Sonya appeared to study it, weighing her choices. Pointing to the menu she announced, “I want a Rueben. Just like in Brooklyn!” Sadly, there was no Rueben on the menu. She repeated, “A Reuben just like in Brooklyn. I lived in Brooklyn. Were you there?” Sonya smiled with a vapid gaze.

“Yes, Sonya,” Sarah answered gently to calm Sonya, who was clearly agitated, “I was there.”

Somehow Ethan improvised a Reuben sandwich out of ground lamb, cheese, and a tomato-yogurt sauce on a thinly sliced baguette he grilled. Sonya didn’t notice the difference and ate greedily while staring at Sarah. “Good! Do I know you?”

Every night she ordered a Rueben just like the ones she had in Brooklyn, New York as a young girl, a fact she unequivocally remembered. Sarah knew the uniformity of dinner provided comfort or maybe it was the only food Sonya remembered.

“I like you!” Sonya told Sarah as she ate.

Sarah smiled. It felt good to be liked by Sonya. She wanted to believe that it was because Sonya sensed on some level, the way that animals or children gravitate toward certain strangers, that Sarah was, at her core, kind.

Because of Sonya, Sarah wondered if without memory, love could exist. Sonya favored certain things and people intuitively, the way one comes to feel an affinity for the style of a Van Gogh painting, the wild abandon of the brushstrokes, the rich tones and piercing cries of an oboe, or the unbroken undulations of the sea.

She watched Sonya eat her Tunisian “Reuben” sandwich in the dining hall among the guests and mused how arrogantly (or was it out of necessity?) we forget or ignore our own paths ahead.

 

 

 

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ANGEL OF POETRY / onyx feathers

The Angel of Poetry shook me tonight, but it seemed, at first, that no words would fall from my mouth or hands. I sewed up those wounds yesterday, I told him, and asked to lie in his dark wings.

Some nights ricochet, I wept. Even the rain doesn’t dull self-inflicted wounds. The peonies and roses have surrendered their blooms to the rain, the hidden moon.

There’s still the smell of lilacs we waited for an eternity to open and unseal spring’s nectar. Nothing is frozen externally, at least.

So much is broken—the flower pots, the left panel of the privacy wall, Buddha’s chin, the indoor table on the patio, mantras of composure.

At dinner, I missed the conversations, pulled into the interstices of lost music; the maestro’s hands had become tired, water-logged birds. He knew.

The rain’s steadfast vertical, no slant to wash the windows to watch the world better tomorrow or the neighbor’s wall-sized TV for an explanation of the mass shooter or the plane crash—but his wings were the feathers of black swans.

The Book I had been writing became too heavy to hold. I told him how I ripped pages for folded paper ships; how one match took out the whole fleet.

How one’s ideas of love can become incoherent. How I wrote a letter to the scientist asking him for pills for heartache, for moving to the top of someone’s list.

I left today’s painting, “Melancholy,” in the rain to take some of the brushstrokes away, as he already knew. The uninitiated will not understand.

Wishful thinking can burn out the engine. One wants, at times, to be outside the brain and its frenetic tango. What does it matter what the day is called?

The grass is embarrassingly tall, but at least there was no treefall in the hail storm, and I washed my hair in the rain since there were no stars.

I am tired of being a pronoun, I told him, but he was gone.

 

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first pages of E C H O [E S]

A:

I don’t understand what you’re trying to prove.

Z:

That I have nothing to prove.

 

 

A:

This path is shadow.

Z:

This I know.

 

 

A:

Do not follow the other[s]. Let y come and show the way out.

Z:

I have a new trust in right angles, perpendicular, vertical

angels. Thank the gods you are vertical, my Angel, A.

 

 

A:

Who will lead this dance of broken particulars?

Unskilled in following leads, reading directions,

I bore easily. The mind wanders with the lost violin

off the page. The musical score set afire.

 

 

Z:

Absence distracts. Not skilled at waiting for what

really? Bring on the gasoline at this juncture

of jumpy birds. We all desire to be adored.

 

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Further Studies in Existentialism /3

  1. Most nights I go outside to check, the moon is still there. Someone somewhere else might be doing the same thing.

 

  1. The owl has not yet returned from its stint somewhere else or is a casualty of the widening of the field.

 

  1. I have nothing but the rain tonight.

 

  1. Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t usually set the record straight.

 

  1. Events are weighted with attitude and intent, maybe some emotion, a backdrop of crying or cello.

 

  1. The city of “if” is a place where shadows escort light.

 

  1. The bored cat might trip you; tie a ribbon to the chair at the very least.

 

  1. There is a need for human interaction, conversation; sometimes even touch.

 

  1. Simplicity can undo complexity, offering one thread from the sweater you don’t need.

 

  1. Take the thread you hang by some hours and bravely, sew up the wounds.

 

  1. Isn’t it strange, how much is attributed to the organ of the heart?

 

  1. I love you, sky, with all my pancreas.
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Further Studies in Existentialism /4

  1. The refrain of rain returns the gutter-staccato. The birds will be happy with tomorrow’s easier worm-catch, especially the baby red-heads, cardinals perhaps, still on a learning curve.

 

  1. Weeds will pull out more easily with the proper determination, stamina, and garden tools. Don’t be overwhelmed. The neighbors do not know.

 

  1. Some nights sets of thoughts will tangle and avalanche. Years can do that, too. The musical score stops, and it will be too quiet without the rain—just the heightened confusion of what to throw away.

 

  1. The tests mandated hit the core of exposure.

 

  1. There should be a spiritual car wash, an MRI. Chronic depression and/or anxiety can be deadly. Stay awake and/or breathe. The city of “this” has everything you need, tell yourself.

 

  1. Identity can seem definitive. Too many days or months running or receding in the wrong direction without sight of some better trajectory. Have some ice cream. There is always TV. Forgive the mirror, your labyrinth, the psychological plan crash.

 

  1. What sign are you? Tell me everything, but you don’t say a word.

 

  1. A “we” can often be a mask of two different eyes. A baby was just born without any.

 

  1. Not everyone has the same playing field.

 

  1. I am learning to hold the dealt cards closer to my breastbone and refrain from safety-pinning emotions on the sleeves through the skin.

 

  1. Tomorrow I will wake up happier.

 

  1. New shoes may help, but don’t forget to pay the IRS before interest accrues.
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Further Studies in Existentialism /1

  1. Maybe if I could write a poem, the day wouldn’t seem so meaningless; the rain wouldn’t give back so many unwanted memories.
  2. I gave someone a city. He built a golden wall around it and didn’t offer a key.
  3. My father appeared in a dream in my oversleep and told me he wanted to jump. I offered him a vacation in the next dream, but he couldn’t climb the stairs.
  4. Maybe if I had made different choices, I wouldn’t be in this predicament. The dog would be walked more and there would be more friends, better endings to stanzas.
  5. This is a turning point—only if I turn.
  6. The sickness doesn’t go away. Animals will hide until they die.
  7. No one likes a sad ending or to hear the same thing over and over.
  8. There are keys to other cities one can build or find. Beautiful cities called “if” and “only,” “this” and “that.”
  9. Someone sang me a song in a voice clip, and I felt visible despite the rain and metaphorical homelessness.
  10. The rain kept washing everything away except the dreams of my father and the cities I gave away.
  11. Tomorrow I will be braver.
  12. Tomorrow I will not feel sorry for myself.

 

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Further Studies in Existentialism /2

  1. I set the table, but no one joined me for the ultimate conversation.
  2. Fools lie under the night sky without blankets waiting for answers.
  3. If you fail to love anything (such as the sky and river-light), you may disappear.
  4. Nothing is something to fill.
  5. I excommunicated myself from magical thinking or was that my feelings?
  6. Emotions are often a bi-product, however.
  7. I saw you when you had the epiphany: you are playing chess with just yourself.
  8. How does one explain one’s illness to another?
  9. Sometimes we swim through excrement, which a percentage of the time, must be owned.
  10. I burned down so many bridges, I became an island.
  11. The legacy will not be the resume-report card-bank account-wardrobe—just some papers with ink, notes, color—fragile as ourselves.
  12. The royal purple Japanese peony tree just might bloom this year.
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ADMISSIONS

  1. I left everything at the shore because I was happy there on a day there were no reports of chemical warfare.
  2. [If this were a Pollock painting, chart the red undercurrent, then the blue.]
  3. Happy = not needing anything else
  4. [except maybe what we purport love to be
  5. that velvet container to climb inside, memorize, and transport to a ship bottle to ward off the blues
  6. one’s inner horses stopped or stuck. Unattended.
  7. The ability to do anything definitive or fun with the confidence of performers.]
  8. Now, there is even less—silk running past the bullet-proof glass we live behind, passwords that no one remembers but that can easily be hacked.
  9. I don’t want to be so honest, but if I’m not, then everything stays the same, and there is no poem that can perform minute miracles of attention and surprise, a future pleasure, a waking up, if needed, or ability to sleep.
  10. I am writing notes for the suicide to convince otherwise.
  11. The paragraphs will be filled with sky and there is a repeating theme of the warm sunlight when riding in the heated car in winter, a white color block in a Rothko.
  12. Somewhere someone is starving. Somewhere someone is lost. Bleeding. After the earthquake [the ornate ceiling paintings have caved in] or the retaliation.
  13. Someone is praying
  14. in an unknown language of piercing sounds.

 

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PRELUDE | PREFACE

  1. We have come here to [for]get.  The nets cannot hold.

 

  1. The postmodern city asks to become a heap/sequence of philosophical guesses, a checklist for the sublime.

 

  1. Sophisticated equipment set up on the side of the road tracks the open[ing], but wind and rain sabotage experiment. And people are unreliable—though they smile and open.

 

  1. Is your House [of being] an essay or multiple-choice test? True/false? It can’t be that simple, can it? But one wants any[way].

 

  1. The world weeps entropy, begs to enter the screen as cyber-dream; splice a film of delphinium and [t]rain, backdrop of betrayal—the dark envelope’s center of seeds.

 

  1. I lost myself in the poem, its brushstrokes of unsettling music—later resurfacing in the tapestry-symphony quilt. Follow my diaphanous thread.

 

  1. There was so much to make you experience on your own—though I knew, at times, you might miss the quotidian persona.

 

  1. The music doesn’t stop after the score is played [unless the pages are burned [unless the pages are burned into memory]]. It stays and stays stitched into a perpetual spiritual undoing—before the cathartic Coda of Rain.

 

  1. You will leave knowing more [what might mean] in and over time; the stones and [k]nots you carry tomorrow.

 

  1. The island of bet[rayal] and wingspan was different each time. The sea, an odd creature—with death in her mouth.

 

  1. The organ at the controls steers the ship of the singular, clings to the certainty of barnacle and seaweed. There is just so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CATHARSIS

I hit the reset button—because my thoughts were taking too much time.

And the yellow primrose and fuchsia sweet pea were stunning—how the primrose folded in their yellow pages when the sun closed its eyes, and the fuchsia flutter stumbled up the bedroom windows, tracking its leaves. Tiny miracles against background violence.

I had said too much on a broken motherboard; threw away my memories when the keyboards were switched. Keys were broken and misplaced; cyber-links to the secrets of the universe.

Letters that needed nimble hands. So much elegant music missing still. Initials carved into birch trees—boasting indelible love, but we all know better.

And the flash drive—it could no longer hold me. I lost that, too, in the fallout of cheerful dominos. I had been winning, but the wind sliced my vanity down into pieces.

Perhaps you know how all this feels—and rubberneck, too, at the train crash and tsk tsk, it was going way too fast and the woman with all of her children piled into the careless SUV should not have been in a hurry to get her hair done.

Things come as surprises. Offering up infinitesimal glitters of sun-crash and shattered star. At night, the crickets vie with cicadas and tree frogs for the utmost attention. Before the catbird signals the rest that it is time.

I wrote in the Dictionary of Melancholia, Handbook for Fatigue, Diary of Mercurial Wanderings, Notebook of Promises to Oneself, Notebook of Modified Contingencies, Notebook of Intensities, Coda of Rain.

And slept finally in the downy clouds of my ancestors beating through my faulty emotions and chromosomes. I survived many kaleidoscopic dream fractals and other attempts at nomenclature, but with verbs.

I slept finally for days. And woke up alive.

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